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No. 98, 20th September 2013

1. Taiwan: Taiwan sets up first turtle sanctuary after second major haul

Follow-up Bulletin 95

DATE: 15th September, 2013

On the 14th of September, Taiwan's coastguard discovered 2,439 Asian yellow pond (Mauremys mutica) and yellow-lined box turtles (Cuora flavomarginata) in a fishing boat in Tungkang, a port in the southern region of Pingtung. The skipper of the boat, bound for China, and three Indonesian crews were arrested. They could face jail terms of up to five years plus a fine of up to Tw$1.5 million ($50,300), according to Taiwan's wildlife protection law. Last month, the coastguard seized 2,626 rare turtles on board another boat as they were being taken off the island. In reply to these crimes, a new sanctuary will open in October on the Feitsui reservoir outside the capital Taipei. Kuan Li-hao, an official of the forestry bureau, told AFP, “Once the sanctuary is set up, patrols will be stepped up there to deter poaching.” The reptiles were to be eaten by wealthy Chinese or used as an ingredient in China for traditional medicine. “As winter approaches, the demand for turtles in China, especially in the south, is rising,” Kuan said. Because the number of wild turtles is in sharp decline in China, market prices have surged to about five times those of Taiwan, which is separated by a 200-kilometre strait from the Chinese mainland.

Link to this web article online (English)


2. Hanoi, Vietnam: Discussion about the care of the Hoan Kiem turtle

SOURCE: – DATE: 19th September, 2013

In the afternoon of the 18th of September, 2013, Nguyen Van Khoi, the deputy chairman of Hanoi People's Committee (PC) discussed basic principles and responsibilities for managing the Hoan Kiem lake area and Ly Thai To park with relevant departments and ministries. One of the discussed issues was the responsibility for taking care of the legendary turtle in Hoan Kiem lake (Rafetus swinhoei). Overall, relevant departments and ministries all want to avoid this issue as nobody wants to commit to the responsibility. Representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development proposed to transfer the management of the turtle and the lake to the district's PC. In response, Nguyen Quoc Hoa, the deputy chairman of the Hoan Kiem district PC, said that since fish and turtles are both aquatic species and their managed in the same way, it is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. This discussion is completely different from the one the departments had some years ago about the rescue of the turtle. Back then 10 different authorities met in many conferences and meetings to figure out a way to save the Hoan Kiem turtle. A huge amount of money was invested to catch and treat the turtle such as a Japanese net (200m x 5m) or a small trestment pool (5m in diameter, 2.5 tonnes).

Link to this web article (Vietnamese)

© Vũ Ngọc Long

3. Malang, Malaysia: Kalimantan's Island Closure Puts Sea Turtles at Risk, Says NGO

DATE: 16th September, 2013

Environmental activists continue to denounce the closure of a key turtle nesting island off East Kalimantan by the authorities, warning that thousands of endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are at risk. Conservation efforts on the island have ceased since last year after local residents drove out conservationists from the area as they demanded to manage their own conservation efforts. Residents had complained that conservation was better managed before the involvement of nongovernmental organizations. Hiltrud Cordes, a member of the Turtle Foundation, a German NGO focusing on turtle conservation, said the organization feared that the loss of access to Sangalaki Island in the Berau Marine Conservation Area would undermine the survival prospects of the green turtle. “Results from our conservation efforts can only be monitored in the next 20 to 30 years,” she said. The Turtle Foundation has conducted several conservation efforts in the area, such as identifying the spread of female turtles during the laying period, ensuring eggs hatch in the right location, conducting regular patrols in the waters and beaches along the island. The turtles on the island also face numerous other threats, such as predation by monitor lizards or humans. “We are worried that the eggs in the 3,500 nests that we usually find in Sangalaki will be poached by humans,” Cordes said, adding that each egg was usually sold at a price of Rp 8,000 ($0.70).

Link to this web article online (English)


4. Madagascar: Turtle Rescue Centre Open in Madagascar

DATE: 18th September, 2013

According to the TSA Madagascar Program, the first of four planned tortoise rescue centres in the south has been built at Ambovombe, the administrative capital of the Androy Region. The native people – known as Tandroy – have traditionally held the strongest taboos (known as fady) against harming tortoises amongst the eighteen tribes in the country. Despite the importance of the taboo, Ambovombe is also well-known for tortoise consumption and corruption related to transportation of tortoises. Establishing the first rescue centre here will set an example, and will remind the people about the cultural value of the taboo and tortoise conservation. The centre will also serve as a place that will hopefully change behaviour for other regional authorities and influence school kids through organized tours. Construction of the next conservation centre– located in Ampanihy – will get underway soon, to be followed by facilities in Betioky then Tsiombe, a major tortoise trafficking hub. TSA's southern Madagascar headquarters will soon be moving to Beloha in an attempt to have greater impact in this well-known tortoise poaching centre a new TSA staff member will be appointed for this important region in the near future. In addition to building greater capacity to handle confiscated tortoises in the south, research will be conducted to determine the best strategies for returning them to the wild.

Link to this web article online (English)

© EPA Photo/Made Nagi


5. Albay, Philippines: Leatherback turtle's eggs in Albay fail to hatch

DATE: 19th September, 2013

All of the 90 eggs laid by a giant leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) on the shore of a coastal village in Albay last July failed to hatch within the normal 70-day hatching period. Nilo Ramoso, officer of the DENR Pawikan Conservation Project, said the eggs did not hatch due to salt water contamination near the mouth of the Yawa River in Legazpi's Rawis village. Despite measures taken to protect the eggs from predators, such as carefully transferring the eggs a few meters inland, “It was unfortunate all the eggs failed to develop into hatchlings,” he continued. The real culprit was the salt water that contaminated the eggs when the mother turtle entered the nesting site along the Yawa River during high tide. Seventy of the 90 eggs underwent laboratory test, which later revealed that the embryos or egg yolks and their albumin were contaminated with salt water, preventing them from maturing. These eggs were buried back at the nesting site off the Philippine Navy camp in Rawis village, while the 20 remaining eggs would be preserved and used as exhibits during lectures and conservation campaigns.

Link to this web article online (English)


6. Turtle Eye Muscle Adapts to Deal With Obstructed Vision

DATE: 19th September, 2013

In a recent study published in The Journal of Comparative Neurology , Saint Louis University professor of pharmacological and physiological science Michael Ariel, Ph.D., reported surprising findings about the eye movements of pond turtles who can retract their head deep into their shell. While researchers expected that the pond turtle's eyes would operate like other animals with eyes on the side of their heads, this particular species of turtle appears to have characteristics of both front and side-eyed animals, affecting a specific eye muscle's direction of pull and the turtle's eye position when its peripheral vision is blocked by its shell. Ariel and the research team tested his theory that the pond turtle had characteristics of a front-eyed animal in three ways: physiologically, looking at the eye movement response to nerve stimulation; anatomically, examining how muscles were attached to the eyes and head; and behaviourally, examining eye positions. The researchers found that a turtle pulls its eyes in different directions when its head is out of its shell compared to when its head is retracted deep within its shell. Because the pond turtle can pull its head entirely into its shell, resulting in an obstructed field of vision, it appears that this turtle has developed a way to compensate and direct its eyes forward to best examine its environment. Moreover, the superior oblique muscle may play a role in this behaviour as its direction of pull is more like that of a front-eyed animal than that of animals with eyes on the side of their heads. Ariel, who has studied pond turtles for 25 years, says they are unique among all animals because they block their peripheral vision by pulling their heads into their shell. "Not all turtles can do this. A sea turtle, for example, cannot pull its head into its shell. We expected that pond turtles would be like other turtles and other lateral eye animals" said Ariel. "That wasn't the case. Surprising, their eye movements can also be like that of humans."

Link to this web article online (English)


© WoGi/Fotolia

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